Ronald MacLean AM

b. 1849 Fort Murray, Cape Colony.  d. 05/05/1910 East London, South Africa.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 1872-1883 East London, South Africa.

Ronald MacLean AM

Ronald was one of five children of Sir John and Katherina Georgina Louisa MacLean (nee O’Reilly). He married Elizabeth Jane Arnold, and they had eight children. Shortly before his death he was on trial for the murder of John Barone, who intended to elope with one of his daughters. He died of pneumonia shortly after he was acquitted of the charge.



In 1872, a man, while suffering from delirium tremens, jumped off the pierhead at East London, and there being a strong sea and ebbing tide, was rapidly carried out to sea. MACLEAN, who was passing, plunged into the sea, swam out, and reached the drowning man, and brought him close to the bank, when both were assisted ashore. On the 26th September, 1872, the brig ” Wild Rose” stranded, near Buffalo River in a strong gale. The crew were rescued by MACLEAN and five other men in a whale boat. Two days later a man working on board the wreck of the vessel fell overboard, and would have been drowned had not MACLEAN, who was on board at the time, jumped in after him, and rescued him. On the 27th November, 1872, the barque ” Crixea ” stranded on the coast in a heavy gale. MACLEAN rendered most valuable assistance in going far into the surf and assisting out of the breeches buoy the crew who were being saved by the rocket apparatus; A day or two later a man employed on board the wreck of’ the vessel, jumped into the sea while partly drunk, MACLEAN swam out from land through a heavy surf, and at very great personal risk brought him safely ashore. On the 28th October, 1873, the brig ” Lord of the Isles” went ashore on the East Bank. It was seen that the vessel could not hold together till the arrival of the rocket apparatus, and MACLEAN volunteered to swim out to the vessel for a rope. The sea was extremely high, and he was several times thrown back bruised and bleeding on. the rocks. Persevering, however, he at last succeeded in reaching the vessel, and returned with a rope, by means of which the crew were safely rescued. While landing, one of the crew fell out of the breeches buoy, MACLEAN, injured as he was, plunged into the surf and reached him ; the man, who could not swim, caught MACLEAN by the throat, and both would have been drowned, had not assistance been rendered from shore. MACLEAN’S injuries were so serious that he was for two months confined to his house, and his life was for some time despaired of. At midnight on the 1st November, 1876, the ” Elise ” stranded in a heavy gale and high sea. The rocket apparatus being engaged at the wreck of another vessel, MACLEAN volunteered to swim out to the ” Elise ” for a rope. He succeeded in reaching her, but was unable to make his presence known to the crew, and returned ashore. He renewed the attempt, and after some time a rope was thrown to him, which he carried ashore, and by means of which the crew were saved. On the llth November, 1882, two lighters were capsized in a heavy sea in the river. MACLEAN, seeing the accident, rushed down to the jetty, flung himself into the breakers, and succeeded in rescuing three of the crew. On various occasions during the years 1874-83, MACLEAN rendered most valuable assistance in working the rocket apparatus at wrecks, and helping the crews ashore, and was in consequence selected to take charge of the local Volunteer Rocket Brigade.